At the same time, I have never heard of anyone being punished for not granting refugee status.
On the site of Civic Assistance Committee, there is your quote that any person can lose their homeland at any time and that Einstein was a refugee and who was not.
By the way, Ludmila Alekseeva, our human rights activist [founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group], was also a refugee. Putin went to her home to congratulate her on her birthday, with his own bottle, because he would not drink from her bottle. When he was asked to drink champagne, he said: “No, no, no, I have my own bottle.” She was also a refugee at one point – from the Soviet Union to the US.
Even now, more people are fleeing from than coming to Russia. You recently spoke in Montenegro at the foundation Pristanishte, where victims of the war in Ukraine come – Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians. Could Civic Assistance also help Russian citizens fleeing Russia?
The mandate of our organization includes assistance to foreign citizens, refugees, migrants, stateless persons and internally displaced persons. We helped during the Chechen wars, and now we help people who moved out of Chechnya. At first it was a stream of Russians, then it became mixed. That is to say, we also help our citizens, it is in our mandate. But besides that, in some cases we can also help people of other categories who are in a critical situation. I am speaking for an organization, but it is my personal work. I come home from work and quite often devote several hours, sometimes until the morning, to [writing] letters of support for our citizens applying for asylum abroad.
Not so long ago, we had such a case when people who work with the LGBT community contacted me. There was a man from Central Asia – I won’t say from which republic; unfortunately, homophobia is very widespread in many former Soviet republics. He applied for asylum in Russia. Well, we now have homophobia codified here, so it was completely pointless. We managed to send him to France. And there the organization OFPRA, where the process for people seeking asylum in France always begins, turned him down. We wrote several letters there. And I was very pleased to hear that a court in Nancy ordered OFPRA to grant asylum to this man.
We sometimes get the court to reverse denials, but usually our courts redirect the cases for new trials. And we, probably for the first time [that Civic Assistance has been around], had two cases when the court decided to oblige the migration service to grant refugee status to a person. And here we won for our former fellow Soviet citizen, and it was nice.
I write a lot of letters of support. I am now on letter 1362. Mostly it is people from the Caucasus, but not only them. Our peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses, persecuted for nothing. There are several Muslim organizations that are also called “terrorist” and “extremist” in name only. In my opinion, it is just a label, but it is still enough to persecute them.
Civic Assistance has also been labeled a foreign agent…